Most walkers and trekkers will consider a big alpine trip at some time in their life and for me the Mont Blanc Challenge represented my best option for climbing a serious alpine summit before I'm too old to crawl up there! It also involves a high altitude bivy in a snow cave - which is exactly the experience I like.
Being an Alpine novice I needed a nurturing atmosphere where I could be taught what I needed to know, put it into practice and climb the mountain with people who know what they're doing and - within reasonable limits - keep me safe.
Stefan Gatt and his circle of guides can delivery this - the Mont Blanc Challenge is aimed at novices and those with limited experience who want to learn it! It will also appeal to those with experience who want an alternative to hiring a guide for a day or two - those who want a more rounded experience.
I joined the small group of 8 delegates on Wednesday 20th June 2012. Led by Stefan Gatt we spent the next few days acclimatising and practicing the techniques we would need to make an ascent to the summit.
On day 4, our group started in daylight from the Aiguille du Midi and trekked most of the 'three Monts' route to the Col de Brenva, there we dug a snowcave and bivouaced for the night. On Sunday morning, after a few hours climbing, we reached the summit around 10.00am.
Stefan and I corresponded a few years ago over a piece of gear before I knew his background, I was aware of his 'Mont Blanc Challenge' but hadn't realised how he viewed it as a complete experience - its not just getting to the top of Mont Blanc, like so much travel its about the journey, and that includes being part of a group, learning new techniques, stretching yourself and helping others do the same.
I only ever saw Stefan uncomfortable on two occasions, once was when he was making everyone's supper at the bivouac (and it was freezing) and the other was when it came to collecting money from us.
Click HERE to download details of how you can join the 2014 Mont Blanc Challenge.